By Anne McKay Garris
CLEARWATER - Four motels between Coronado and Hamden and along Fifth Street in South Clearwater Beach stand fenced off and vacant. Small signs on them indicate they are "unfit for habitation" because of fire hazard. The buildings, built in the fifties or sixties, stand sturdy and strong, crowded with memories of visitors from the cold north who returned each year, bringing their children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren to enjoy the vacation spot they had found so attractive.
The late Mary McCormac, former owner of the Tropicana, offered true service to her guests, meeting them at the airport herself. Often she found other visitors, bound for Clearwater Beach, who did not yet have reservations. She offered them a ride and was not surprised when they chose to stay at her motel.
Unfortunately, the neglected stairs and railings and electrical systems that have fallen into disrepair require the buildings to be fenced off and unused.
The fenced properties, put together during the recent building boom by Luca Corporation with plans for redevelopment, cost more than $8 million to purchase.
The City of Clearwater, according to one spokesperson, has been negotiating for "six months to a year" to purchase these properties as an ideal place for the much discussed parking garage for Clearwater Beach since every suggestion for a garage to be built on beachfront city property has met with strong objections from almost every source.
It remains to be seen if the city, now having to cut back on services and facilities because of reduced income from taxes, will be able to afford this desirable location for a parking garage. Most experts agree that a parking garage on Clearwater Beach will not pay for itself, but the demand is great and city officials keep working on it.
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